Rising powers and global governance: negotiating change in a resilient status quo



    1. Rohr Professor of Pacific International Relations at the School of International Relations and Pacific Studies, and Distinguished Professor of Political Science at the Political Science Department, University of California, San Diego
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    • The author wishes to thank Eric Helleiner, and participants in workshops and seminars at Chatham House, Princeton University and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of this article. Duc Tran and Hanning Bi provided invaluable research assistance in the preparation of the article.


Economic convergence of the large emerging economies (Brazil, China and India) on the incumbent industrialized economic powers has produced divergent predictions: rising powers are viewed as challengers of existing global governance or nascent supporters of the status quo. The preferences of rising powers, as revealed in global economic negotiations and international security regimes, indicate that they are moderate reformers that seek greater influence within existing forums and also attempt to safeguard their policy-making autonomy. Even if their preferences change, the translation of growing economic weight into usable capabilities is not automatic. Domestic political constraints often make the mobilization of capabilities difficult in international bargaining. Strategies of collective action, whether South-South or regional, have not yet produced a consistent increase in bargaining power at the global level. The counter-strategies of delay and cooptation implemented by the incumbent powers have maintained incumbent influence and enhanced the legitimacy of existing global governance institutions. Risks of conflict remain along three negotiating divides: system friction, distributional conflict and institutional efficiency. Institutional innovations such as greater transparency, institutional flexibility and construction of informal transnational networks may provide modest insurance against a weakening of global governance and its institutions.